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The Evolution of the Global Environmental System: Trends and Prospects


The system of international environmental governance has undergone a significant development in the past half of a century. Progress has been achieved especially at the normative level, with the adoption of treaties and instruments of soft law, and a general recognition that the environment is a concern of humankind as a whole. To this body of internationally agreed norms there does not correspond an adequate mechanism of environmental law enforcement. This remains the major weakness of the present system. This paper provides an analytical overview of the political, social and legal context of environmental governance. It analyses progress made so far and suggests possible ways to address deficiencies of the existing system. One possible way forward is the reform and strengthening of the global institutions. Various options are discussed in this regard. The paper also argues that there is a need for a more decentralized, multilevel governance based on a functional conception of state sovereignty, which is responsive to the general interest of the international community to protect the global environment. The European Union and the United States can significantly contribute to the advancement of this conception of "environmentally responsible sovereignty".

Documento prodotto nell'ambito del progetto IAI Transworld.

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